Poof, you’re a wizard, with the Dungeons and Dragons Character Generator

The dnd3rd project, also called the Dungeons and Dragons Character Generator, is a web-based application for creating characters for the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game. By using dnd3rd, players can create complete characters with just a handful of clicks, and save, reload, and upgrade characters.

Developer Jesse Smith says, “dnd3rd tries to be as friendly as possible to newcomers to Dungeons and Dragons. It tries to do as much work as possible for the player and offers (we hope) useful documentation to help with each step of the process.” A sign of the project’s success is the fact that dnd3rd has been adopted by role-playing game companies, such as Turn Watcher and SOHO Press’s The Elfish Gene.

Smith began the dnd3rd project as a way to learn more about the game. “When I first became interested in Dungeons and Dragons (3rd Edition) back around 2002, I was a bit overwhelmed by all the rules and stats. I could find only one program at the time to generate a character, and it was fairly complex and raised more questions than provided answers. So I decided the best way to learn the D&D system was to teach it – to a computer. I was learning JavaScript at the time and decided to teach myself both D&D and JavaScript at the same time. This would allow for a cross-platform, easy-to-modify script.

“From the beginning it was my plan to give away the character generator to anyone who wanted to use it. I was also aware from the start that it would be a big task and I would want help down the line. Given those criteria, it seemed like a good idea to go with an open source license. I went with the GNU GPLv2, which was the latest GPL version at the time. Originally I posted the generator on my website and gave out links to fellow gamers. After a while the traffic became too heavy for my site and I kept exceeding my bandwidth limit. That’s when I decided to move the project to SourceForge. I’ve been very happy with the decision, and SF has a lot of useful tools for tracking usage and collaborating with other developers.”

Smith says development on dnd3rd has slowed since Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition was announced. “We still get the occasional feature request and bug report, and we try to include new features as they’re requested. Right now I’d like to include some code for selecting Cleric domains and setting up more spells. Those are fairly simple but time-consuming things to do, as there is a lot of data entry involved. If anyone out there has some basic JavaScript skills and a copy of the D&D manual, I’d be happy to hear from them, and I’m happy to write letters of recommendation for people who send me useful code. I’m also glad to hear from people who would like to see features added.”

In closing, Smith offers a tip for the program’s users. “For people who want to carefully craft their characters from the ground up, I recommend creating a first-level character and then using the generator’s Level Up button. That way the player gets to assign points at each stage. Creating a high-level character right away and then assigning all the points in one go removes a bit of refinement from the process.”

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